Histamine & Sleep
How allergies, strawberries & chickpeas can affect your sleep and what to do about it.
Spring is here, which means that a lot of us are struggling with allergies yet again.
In most cases, the allergic reaction is produced by a histamine activity, so we usually take antihistamines to stop it. But, is that a good idea and how does all this affect your sleep?
What is histamine?
Histamine is a neurotransmitter, a messenger in the body, that signals the body to do certain things.
It helps us with gut motility, it is involved with the release of enzymes that help with protein digestion, and it supports you being awake. This is why you’re usually told to take your allergy medication at night, so that you avoid drowsiness during the day.
This is also why people who have histamine intolerance and do not tolerate high histamine foods, usually also suffer from sleep problems.
What are symptoms of histamine issues?
Classic ones include
- itchy skin (rashes, hives)
- flushing of the face
- digestive problems (bloating, diarrhea, constipation)
- muscle and joint pain
What contributes to high levels of histamine:
Foods that are high in histamine
The list is quite extensive: fermented foods, citrus fruits, aged cheeses, alcohol, avocado, strawberries, chocolates, chickpeas, raw tomatoes, vinegar, spinach, etc.
Keep in mind that people tend to react to high histamine foods differently, so you have to see for yourself if your body is triggered by certain of these foods more than by others.
Certain bacteria in the gut can release histamine and increase your histamine levels as studies have found.
Weak digestive system
If you have low levels of stomach acid (it decreases with age) or if your pancreas isn't releasing enough digestive enzymes to support your digestion, this will increase your histamine levels.
Estrogen raises histamine levels and histamine levels also raise estrogen. Because of this interaction, during ovulation, histamine symptoms can get worse for a lot of women.
How do high levels of histamine affect your sleep?
Too much histamine in the system causes inflammation.
If you have inflammation, the body raises its cortisol levels. Cortisol is an anti-inflammatory and the body is trying to combat the inflammation by producing more cortisol.
Cortisol is one of our stress hormones and if it is elevated at night - to fight the inflammation - it will interfere with your ability to sleep. High cortisol = low melatonin = sleep problems.
Also, histamine in itself causes wakefulness. If your “bucket” of histamine is just too full in your body, this will keep you up at night.
Is taking an anti-histamine a good idea?
Well that depends.
Keep in mind that this is something you should discuss with your doctor.
How does an anti-histamine actually work? It blocks the histamine receptors in your body so that histamine can’t get into the cells and do its job there.
So, taking an anti-histamine doesn't actually lower the histamine load in your body, it just prevents histamine from going into the cell.
As soon as you take the anti-histamine away, your body might still be flooded with histamine and those problems that were there before are still present, including the sleep problems.
So, essentially an anti-histamine is a bit of a band aid because it doesn’t get to the root cause of what the problem is.
What can you do if you think you have a histamine problem?
First of all, lower the histamine burden on your body by reducing the number and the amount of high histamine foods that you're eating.
If you have sleep problems, you should definitely stay away from high histamine foods in the evening.
In general, you should avoid eating late at night because histamine is always released as part of the digestive process. So if you're eating too late at night, you are releasing histamine that can trigger the cortisol reaction and then you don't have enough melatonin to actually go to sleep.
Second, support your liver because liver helps to break down histamine. Try using castor oil packs on the liver to support it. Also, drinking stinging nettle tea is a great way to reduce histamine levels in your body
Third, look into food sensitivities. Testing for food sensitivity will allow you to see if there is anything outside of the high histamine foods that triggers a histamine release in your body and that should be eliminated, at least temporarily.
Fourth, check your gut health. Do you have any bacteria in there that are not supposed to be in there that are actually releasing histamine into the gut? Are there any pathogens in there that also cause a histamine and cortisol reaction? Do you have a leaky gut that needs to be addressed? Are there certain supplements that you can take in order to support this whole process?
Finally, check your minerals and nutrients. There is an enzyme in the body called DAO that actually deconstructs histamine. But for DAO to really work well, your copper and calcium need to be balanced. This is why we run a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis with all our clients.
If you feel like your sleep issues might be caused by your histamine level, feel free to reach out to us. We would love to support you on your journey to a better sleep.